Give Yourself a Deadline

If we dare to create, whether it’s our job or our hobby, we will eventually create something we can’t bring ourselves to share.

Maybe it’s not good enough. Maybe we were distracted, or maybe we didn’t have the energy or the time to make it the best we could. Maybe it really does suck, and no amount of rework is going to fix that.

If that’s the case, all we need to do is admit it to ourselves, abandon the project, and move on to the next one. Chalk the time spent up to learning, and figure out what to create next.

If that’s not the case, though, if we know deep down that it is good enough, that urge not to share is a good sign it’s time to do exactly that. It’s time to swallow hard and let our baby, the thing we created with our brains and our hands, go out into the world to be judged by others when we’re not around to defend it.

Of course, it’s not that easy. Our lizard brain makes sure of that. As soon as we start contemplating sharing what we’ve created, exposing it to the criticism of others–exposing ourselves to that same criticism–the lizard brain starts to scream No! You can’t share that! What if they don’t like it?

And we freeze. We abandon the project, or we go into endless cycles of rework, telling ourselves just one more full edit, one more touch-up, one more glaze or sanding or texturing or coat of paint will make it good enough to share.

And we never put it out there. We never give it a chance to make its own way in the world.

Here’s the deal with the lizard brain: it is designed to keep us safe. It makes us want to stay by the fire in our comfortable cave, away from the predators that might get us if we venture too far outside. It hates change. It wants to keep things just the way they are, safe and warm and boring. It rejects risk. It hates uncertainty.

And if we’re creating, if we are in the business of making things exist that didn’t before, we are at odds with our lizard brain every day. We’re doing some scary stuff. Lizards hate scary stuff.

We can shut the lizard brain down with a very simple tactic: setting a deadline and sticking to it. Telling ourselves I will find someone I trust and share this with him or her by Friday is an excellent way to make our lizard brain irrelevant. Because now we’re committed, especially if we make a point of telling our friend what’s coming.

The lizard brain will still fight us. It will still rant and rave and scream and cry a little. But if you can commit yourself to your deadline, you can make its voice softer.

I’m up against my own deadline for today. More on deadlines Thursday.

I've been a soldier, a dreamer, a working stiff, a leader. A husband, father, example (good and otherwise), and now a survivor. I write about courage, because courage is what enables us to accomplish the impossible. If you draw breath, I love you. If you love in whatever way seems best to you and want others to love in whatever way seems best to them, I am your ally. If you believe someone is less than you because they do not love the way you do, I oppose you. If you see someone as a threat to be abused or destroyed merely because they do not look like you, or love like you, or worship like you, I am your enemy. I am a joyful and courageous man. And I stand with you who love.
  • “…if we know deep down that it is good enough, that urge not to share is a good sign it’s time to do exactly that. That will stick with me!